County preserves piece of history for public
News-Gazette Photo/Andrew Sullivan
Riders, including Osceola County Commissioner Brandon Arrington and County Manager Don Fischer, as well as staff from local nonprofit Heavenly Hoofs and members of the Horses for Heroes veteran rehabilitation program, took to the trails on horseback within the newly opened Twin Oaks Conservation Area on the northeast corner of Lake Tohopekaliga on Friday morning. Behind the riders is the pair of oak trees for which the park is named.
By Tiffanie Reynolds
Osceola County Environmental Lands Conservation Program officials celebrated an achievement in land preservation Friday with the opening of Twin Oaks Conservation Area in Kissimmee.
The 399-acre property at 2001 Macy Island Road in Kissimmee is one of a handful of properties purchased by the county group in 2010 for conservation. Formally a part of Osceola cattle pioneer Henry Partin’s ranch, the conservation area runs along Goblet’s Cove, one of Lake Tohopekaliga’s natural tributaries, and offers activities such as fishing, canoe and kayaking, areas for bird watching, picnicking and trails for both hiking and horseback riding. Park hours are from dawn to dusk, but the county offers overnight camping on the property if reserved in advance.
“This was an opportunity, when the cloud was over the economy as it was, for protecting some conservation lands and getting some things set aside that we might not have been able to afford later on. So, we were able to get some absolute treasures that people in the county moved to and live here for,” Robert Mindick, Osceola County public lands manager, said.
Twin Oaks was the first of these properties to be completed for the public, and county officials said it won’t be the last. The Osceola County group, formally known as SAVE Osceola, already is working on their next conservation area, Cherokee Point. Located across Goblet’s Cove and Twin Oaks, the property holds a barn and adjoining house. The barn will be used as a space to rent for events, and the second story of the house will be designated as a bird watching area, according to Osceola County Community Resources Spokesperson Mary Beth Salisbury.
With the opening of the conservation area, Heavenly Hoofs and veterans from their program Heroes and Horses rode the horse trail named in honor of their service, Heroes’ Way. County Commission Chairman Frank Attkisson, Commissioner Brandon Arrington, Mindick and other county officials joined them.
Heavenly Hoofs is a group in Osceola County that provides equestrian therapy, or therapy through the interaction with horses. Heroes and Horses is only one of Heavenly Hoofs’ programs, and provide therapy to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and physical injuries.
“Horses are like a one-way conversation, where you can talk to them, but you can tell by their actions that they do honestly care about humans,” Chris Schwan, an Air Force reservist who has been volunteering full-time with the program for the past two months, said. “You build a trust bond with them, and it’s a pretty unique bond.”
Nearly 45,000 plants of different varieties were planted on the property before its opening to start native growth in the area again. Future projects on Twin Oaks include hydrologic enhancements to the windmill-powered water trough for horses toward the front of the property and adding more native plants to restore a wetland on the northern part of